July 15, 2016

"Jesus was going through a field of grain on the sabbath.
His disciples were hungry
and began to pick the heads of grain and eat them.
When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him,
“See, your disciples are doing what is unlawful to do on the sabbath.”
He said to the them, 
“Have you not read what David did
when he and his companions were hungry,
how he went into the house of God and ate the bread of offering,
which neither he nor his companions
but only the priests could lawfully eat?
Or have you not read in the law that on the sabbath
the priests serving in the temple violate the sabbath
and are innocent?
I say to you, something greater than the temple is here.
If you knew what this meant, I desire mercy, not sacrifice,
you would not have condemned these innocent men.
For the Son of Man is Lord of the sabbath.”
Matthew 12:1-8

From the very beginning of this passage, we know that the Pharisees were out to get Jesus and his crew. They were following them into fields of 

grain... sounds like the worst kind of paparazzi. And lo and behold, they think they had a bona fide "gotcha" moment when they see them violating rules of the Old Law. Of course, the issue here is that the Pharisees saw this law as absolute, not changing any time soon, but the One who was ushering in a new law, a new covenant between God and His people, was in their midst. They were too blind, too mean-spirited to see Him. The disciples were hungry and desperate enough to be walking through fields of grain, and THIS desperate moment becomes a "gotcha" moment! They were also too deaf to hear the prefiguring of this new covenant from images the old. 

Yes, Jesus was changing everything. And He continues to do so in willing hearts, hearts willing to hurt with mercy, to desire mercy and not sacrifice. 

 

Jesus, God Incarnate, is a picture of God's Heart for humanity. God wanted, wants, to be so close to us that He became one of us. He brought His holiness, once reserved to a special physical building, into our being, our very species HE created. This is the act of love, of mercy, that HE initiated in Jesus, and should be justly reciprocated in the heart of every person. 

The Incarnation of Christ shows us that the new temple, "greater" than the old temple in the old covenant, is in the human heart that God chose to inhabit, animate, and live in Jesus. 

God's heart did not suddenly appear in Jesus, however. The first reading alludes to this, after God listens to the cries of a good servant who was crushed by the news from a prophet that he would soon die: 

 

"I have heard your prayer and seen your tears.
I will heal you: in three days you shall go up to the LORD’s temple;
I will add fifteen years to your life.
I will rescue you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria;
I will be a shield to this city."
Isaiah 38:5-6

What words of comfort, not only to Hezekiah, but to the entire human race! God hears our cries, God's heart is moved with pity. This same heart of God was moved to tears when Jesus heard of his friend Lazarus' death, explained in the shortest verse of the Bible: "Jesus wept." That God can be moved to pardon, to mercy, was far beyond the expectations of the Pharisees, but it also creeps into our hearts as well. God does not want feats of bravery or impressive resumes or even good deeds, He wants our hearts, He wants US.  

Jesus calls Himself the "Lord of the Sabbath," completely uprooting the Pharisees' written source of authority and ascribing it to Himself, the Word. Jesus' life is now read as the perfect example of what the new covenant looks like, His Heart as the source and summit of God's desire to commune with humanity.  

I'll close with a prayer: 

Good Jesus, make our hearts like Yours.

Please show us your Heart, may we not turn away, 

May we open our eyes to see it, 

May we listen and hear your merciful Voice.

Take our sins and make them into something beautiful,

help us receive mercy, make us new, 

help us reflect your mercy, your Heart. 

Leave no area of our hearts untouched by Yours. 

Alleluia! Amen.

Frassati NY